the butterfly that sits softly on our shoulder


NY Times: Are the Best Things in Life Free?

Coco Chanel is reputed to have said, “The best things in life are free. The second-best things are very, very expensive.” Below, Richard Hell, Yanis Varoufakis, Karl Lagerfeld, Mikhail Prokhorov, Youssou N’Dour, Andreja Pejic and Yao Chen tell us about their favorite things, and contemplate why most of us are so rarely satisfied with sunshine, love and the stars above.

Richard Hell (American Singer, songwriter, writer): “…I’ve learned that once you get what you want, you will just want either a greater amount of it, or you will want something else. The best thing to have is a vocation — to like doing something rather than having something. Because then the wanting more is just about wanting to be able to do it better, and that actually pays off…”

Yanis Varoufakis ( a politician, an academic economist and Greece’s former finance minister):  …In the 19th century, some American journals published this definition: “Happiness is like a butterfly, which when pursued seems always just beyond your grasp; but if you sit down quietly, may light upon you.” Ceasing this materialistic pursuit costs nothing at all! If the pursuit of happiness is condemned to be self-defeating, what should our guide be? The optimist in me believes that there is something innate in humans that, like the mechanism that prompts sunflowers to follow the sun across the sky, can help unleash our creative side. For the hell of it. With happiness the unintended byproduct, the butterfly that sits softly on our shoulder…Alas, the Sirens of daily toil can distract us and turn us into consumers who like what they buy, buy what they think they like, and end up bored and dissatisfied — permanently unable to specify the nature of their discontent and living confirmations of Mark Twain’s point about the “limitless multiplication of unnecessary necessities.”

Yao Chen (Chinese Actress and Activist): “…The best things in life really are free. They are indispensable and always with us, like air, sunlight and water. We pay them little attention, taking them for granted. Only when you are about to lose something — when your eyesight goes dim, your health begins to fade or the natural resources you rely upon grow scarce or are polluted — do you start to realize how precious it was…”

Don’t miss entire article: Are the Best Things in Life Free?

Photograph: O My Enemy

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